The Marriage of Thawra, and Other Stories

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: Documentary Feature
GENRE: Documentary
STATUS: Post-Production


In this strangely comic documentary, two defiant Palestinian women connive, hustle, and fight to live on their own terms in the West Bank, a very difficult place.


In two loosely linked stories set in the cities of Jenin, Ramallah and Hebron and representing two generations of Palestinian women, Thawra and Zleikha take us deep into their dense and confining worlds, where freedom for women is a tricky affair, bound up with marriage pressures and centuries-old norms, not to mention an obdurate 50-year-old occupation by the Israeli army.


I’ve been visiting Israel and Palestine for well over a decade, drawn by conscience to “the conflict” whose obduracy knows few parallels in the world, so much so that it has become a metaphor for a conflict without end. A sense of hopelessness has set in for so many. And for those who’ve long held a stake in the conflict and who’ve consumed the staple of worthy documentaries on the subject over the years, a kind of fatigue with the topic has set in. “Oh, another Palestinian doc.” My goal was to do something entirely different. I scoured the lands of Israel and Palestine looking for fresh characters who could deliver a new way of seeing. Hence, this project concerns itself with the pleasures of story, one that emphasizes the originality and complexity of characters who are, importantly, Palestinian women but one that de-emphasizes overt political signifiers. I knew when I met these women that somehow, the force of their personality would break through and reach new audiences. These are women I have never seen before. I was startled by their defiance, their unconventionality, and just a sheer force of life that emanated from them – in spite of all that is designed to keep them down. And when I showed the footage to all kinds of people with very little in common, the response was uniform: you have to tell their story. The film is comprised of two main stories, told in sequence: "The Marriage of Thawra" and "The Mother of All Children". Though both stories are somewhat episodic and loosely plotted, Thawra’s offers the satisfaction of tighter plot and traditional melodrama and Zleikha’s has elements of the picaresque, the journeyer who finds all manner of trouble and adventure along her route. Within these main stories are smaller subplots, minor characters, incidental scenes, false starts, dead-ends. Both stories are crafted with an eye to everyday details. In this I follow Frederick Wiseman’s lead who finds drama in ordinary places and the Italian Neo-realists whose ethics and poetics of the mundane animate this project. Funny, nutty, intimate, and conversational. This sums up the tone of the film, and it is more radical than it seems. This is a comic documentary about the West Bank. This is about funny women in the West Bank – a notion that does not compute easily. They are so funny they could be doing stand-up; Thawra in this case, with her great timing and performative streak. They find humor and joy in strange, forbidding places and thereby offer a different way of seeing, as Zleikha does in militarized Hebron. Even in the darkest scenes, I try to preserve their eye for the comic. Although regarded by some as nutty, even crazy, they struck me as archetypes of women who have risked so much to assert their autonomy. But even as they go out on a limb, they do so with a light touch, even ironic distance. In this way they evoke the light-heartedness of Elia Suleiman, his transmutation of painful historical narratives into something burlesque and absurd. These characters are from a place that’s always framed politically – cursed with politics – and here they come alive as real people you can identify with, not merely as mouth-pieces or accessories to a political position. Far from heroic or saintly, they are allowed a wider canvas for normal everyday expression, allowed to be flawed, disliked, even immoral, in the fullness of their humanity.


C. H. Moon (a.k.a. Cindy Chwe) - Director, Producer, Camera, Writer, Editor
C. H. Moon (a.k.a. Cindy Chwe) is a documentary filmmaker and a digital content producer. Born in Korea and raised in NY, she attended NYU Stern School of Business and completed her B.A. at Columbia University in Comparative Literature/German with a special focus on Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet sphere. After working in the human rights field, she turned to media, including radio and documentary filmmaking, earning an M.A. in Journalism and Documentary Filmmaking at NYU. She produced video and news content in Germany, Eastern Europe and Russia for various outlets, and directed short documentaries concerned with post-Soviet nostalgia and the remnants of Jewish life in Poland. The Marriage of Thawra is her feature documentary debut.

Salim Abu Jabal - Middle East Producer
Salim Abu Jabal is an award-winning filmmaker whose feature documentary, Roshmia, screened internationally to great acclaim. Of Druze origins from the Golan Heights and based in Ramallah, he is also a casting director, having worked with Elia Suleiman among others.

Alexei Kaleina - Associate Editor
Alexei Kaleina is a filmmaker based in NYC. His previous feature, The Afterlight, co-directed with Craig MacNeill, screened internationally, and his short films toured the US and UK.

Rea Mochiah - Music
Rea Mochiah is an award-winning Israeli music producer, composer, and performer. Working in jazz, pop, rock, electronic, and experimental, he’s produced and toured with David Byrne, was a member of Gogol Bordello, and collaborated with Berry Saharoff on several albums, earning the status of "national treasure."

Stephen Hays - Executive Director
Stephen Hays is the founder and managing director of 120db Films, a film finance company, and a former New York-based hedge fund executive. Since 2004, he’s provided financial and other services to film producers, and produced and executive produced over 60 independent film projects.


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